The waiting game that Jordan Shepherd and his father designed for his recruitment slowly started to weight on Shepherd as months turned into weeks and then into days counting down to the final day of the late signing period.
It was a grueling process and nearly broke him down with the fear that he’d have to settle for a school that he didn’t want to attend. That was until last week, when he got a call from a regional scout who had checked in on him from time to time.
The Oklahoma Sooners wanted to talk to him, and 30 minutes later he was on the phone with the coaching staff. Less than a week later, he was on an official visit to Norman signing his name and becoming the fifth member of the 2016 class.
“It got to a point where I thought I was waiting too long,” Shepherd said. “I thought I’d end up at a school where I really didn’t want to go. It turned out that being patient was a blessing.”
Shepherd thought he had found a suitable home in January, when he committed to James Madison. It fit the landing spot he wanted: A place where he connected with the coaching staff and a school that had a history of developing guards. Then in April, Shepherd de-committed from the Duke’s following the departure of the school’s head coach.
After averaging 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game as a senior at Asheville Christian, Shepherd’s long search started over again, and some of the same mid-major programs resurfaced in hopes of landing the 6-foot-3 point guard.
It was around that same time that he watched Oklahoma play in the Final Four after having followed the Sooners for much of the season. Like most, he was a big fan of Buddy Hield. Watching Oklahoma, he never imagined that he’d play for the Sooners.
Watching Hield, he never dreamed he’d received a congratulatory Tweet for the consensus player of the year.
“It’s a dream come true,” Shepherd said. “It’s a blessing. I never thought a school of that caliber would recruit me, especially this late.”
After watching his son announce that he was going to be a Sooner, Charles Shepherd’s eyes welled up with pride. The process had been a long one. The two constantly looked at film of colleges, watching in-game reactions from players and coaches to see whose personality best fit.
They examined depth charts and tracked former players’ development in order to see who would provide Jordan Shepherd with the most room to grow. Oklahoma fit all of that, and Jordan Shepherd’s mom told her husband multiple times after the visit that she felt like they had know the coaching staff for years.
They’d been on official visits before, but something stood out about Oklahoma.
“It was special,” Charles Shepherd said. “Watching him stress and go through what he went through to try and find the perfect school and make sure he didn’t miss out; all of that stuff was thrown out the window, and it was like a burden was lifted off of him.
“I could tell. He just lit up, and tears filled my eyes because he was happy.”
Almost 20 schools were interested in Shepherd along the way, ranging from offers to just a second look.
Most were mid-major programs.
Oklahoma came in late, less than two weeks before the final signing date – May 18, 2016. Asheville Christian coach Andy Ray had fielded calls about Shepherd before. Most coaches wanted game film of the lengthy guard, who specializes in getting into the lane and finishing or finding his teammates.
When Oklahoma assistant coach Chris Crutchfield called Ray, the Sooners already had all the tape they needed on Ray’s three-year starter, who shot 40 percent from behind the arc as a sophomore.
Still, the call, which came a little more than a month after Shepherd started his search over, came as a surprise.
“Having to start over was something he wasn’t looking forward to,” Ray said. “(Jordan) walked through that process with a quiet confidence, knowing what he wanted and not settling for something that wasn’t what he wanted. . . . I think he’s really comfortable with the coaching staff at OU.”
Since signing with Oklahoma, Jordan Shepherd has gotten in contact with fellow 2016 classmates Kristian Doolittle and Kameron McGusty, two players he didn’t know just a week ago. He plans to be in Norman in June for summer workouts with the team.
After a long process of finding the right program, everything is moving much quicker now for Shepherd.
“He knows what he wants,” Charles Shepherd said. “He knows what he’s looking for. He had a criteria. That’s what he was looking for.
“That’s what kind of took him so long to try to decide what the best fit was for him.
On campus in Norman last weekend and presented with an offer, the long process got a lot shorter for Jordan Shepherd – a lot simpler.
“Coach Kruger and the rest of the staff being able to develop players and seeing what they did for Isaiah, seeing what they did for Buddy: I want to be a part of that tradition,” Jordan Shepherd said.